Britton set a goal for himself that would terrify the toughest of people. He wanted to become the youngest person to climb the tallest mountains on each of the world’s continents, what mountain climbers refer to as the “Seven Summits.”
At the time, less than 100 people had ever accomplished this feat. When asked why he would make such an attempt, Britton said, “I dreamed of throwing myself at a goal, at a challenge that seemed so insurmountable in the face of the odds, that I was willing to risk death in the name of success.”
By 2001, Britton had climbed Denali, Aconcagua, Elbrus, and Kilimanjaro, four of the seven highest mountains. By 2004, Britton had conquered Mount Kosciuszko in Australia. In January of 2004, Britton reached the summit of Vinson, the tallest mountain in Antarctica. On January 23, on the day Britton returned home to Greenwich, Connecticut, his 76-year-old beloved grandfather, Bob, died. Britton was crushed.
Britton had just one more mountain to go to become the youngest person to reach each of the Seven Summits, Mount Everest. Within weeks of tackling Vinson, as he began packing for Earth’s highest mountain above sea level, Mount Everest, Britton’s thoughts kept returning to his grandfather.
“His memory will be pushing me to strive even harder than I’ve ever strived before,” he said. “He really just pushed me to push the boundaries and seek the outer limits of whatever I was doing.”
To honor his grandfather, Britton packed a photo of Bob to take to the summit of Mount Everest.
Finally, in March of 2004, Britton began his climb up Mount Everest with Bob’s photo in his pack. For two months, Britton and his team struggled through winds which reached up to 125 miles per hour, had to use ladders tied to each other to cross 50-foot deep and 30-foot-wide crevasses, and, had to wear oxygen masks when the air became too thin to breath.
At one point, a falling boulder barely missed hitting his face by only a few inches. On May 24, Britton became the youngest person at the time to reach the Seven Summits. While atop the summit, Britton removed his grandfather’s photo from his pack and carefully buried it on Mount Everest.
Britton grandfather was certainly an inspiration to his grandson Britton, but he also inspired and entertained millions of children on television. From 1948-1952, he was Clarabell the Clown on the “Howdy Doody Show.” From 1953-1955 he was Corny the Clown on “Time for Fun,” and from 1954-1955 he was Tinker the Toymaker on “Tinker’s Workshop.”
From 1955 to 1985, Bob hosted a children’s television program for which he is most remembered. The photo which remains atop mount Everest is of Britton Keeshan’s grandfather, Robert James “Bob” Keeshan, but you and I know Bob as Captain Kangaroo.